The trucking industry is an important part of the economic engine of our country. Carrying freight from manufacturers, distribution centers and other locations to businesses is an important job. However, tired, distracted, and irresponsible truck drivers injure people on our Michigan’s roads. The top three causes of commercial vehicle and large truck crashes are fatigue, drinking alcohol, and speeding. Distracted driving is another top cause of catastrophic semi-truck collisions.
Despite strict laws and federal regulations about truckers’ speed, driving hours, inspections and maintenance, a few bad apples still drive dangerously, showing disregard for others on the road. And here’s an unsettling fact: You’re more likely to die from their actions than they are. In fatal semi-truck crashes, just 16% of deaths are truck drivers/passengers and 67% are occupants of other cars.
When a Detroit or Michigan big truck accident occurs, Michigan victims are entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries. Trucking companies carry large insurance policies to cover situations where their truckers injure people on the road. And these insurance policies pay for the pain and suffering, emotional distress, trauma, scarring, lost wages and future medical care negligent drivers cause.
In addition, the victims of truck accidents in Michigan may also be entitled to personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, also known as first-party PIP benefits, under the Michigan No-Fault Law. This provides extensive coverage of your medical expenses, lost wages, and the impact on your home and family.
For these reasons, it is essential to retain an experienced and knowledgeable Michigan truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the crash. Trucking companies are notoriously aggressive in defending claims. You’ll need an aggressive lawyer who is bold enough to stand up to the trucking company and their insurance carrier so you have the best shot at winning the compensation you deserve.
What is The Difference Between a Trucking Accident and an Automobile Accident?
When lawyers use the term “automobile accident,” they are generally referring to any accident that involves an automobile as defined by Michigan law. Broadly speaking, an automobile includes any motorized vehicle that has more than two wheels and is fit for operation on a highway.
When lawyers refer to a “trucking accident,” they are referring to a specific subset of automobile accidents. Generally, a “trucking accident” refers to an accident that involves one or more of the following types of big trucks:
- Garbage trucks
- Dump trucks
- Flatbed trucks
- Delivery trucks (Fed-ex, UPS trucks, etc.)
- Tow trucks
While trucking accidents are within the purview of automobile accidents, crashes involving the above-listed trucks typically present different issues than other types of automobile accidents. For this reason, it is important that you retain a lawyer that is experienced and confident in navigating the nuances of trucking accidents specifically.
If you have been in an accident involving any of these trucks, it is important to speak with our experienced trucking attorneys so you can obtain the justice you deserve.
What Should I Do if I Have Been Involved in a Detroit Trucking Accident?
After a trucking accident, your first priority should be your health. Even if you do not feel injured immediately after the crash, you should still seek medical treatment from a doctor or hospital. Often, traumatic injuries resulting from automobile and trucking accidents can manifest within a few hours or days of the crash. Thus, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
While at the accident scene, make sure to exchange information with the driver of the truck. Get the driver’s name and the company he or she is working for. Note the license plate number of the truck and the DOT number on the side of the vehicle.
Make sure to contact the police to alert them of the Michigan trucking accident. Law enforcement can properly obtain the information of the drivers and vehicles involved in the crash, interview witnesses, review the accident scene, take photographs, and call in accident investigators to perform full accident reconstruction if necessary.
If you can, take photographs and video of the accident scene yourself. Make sure to get photos of the semi-truck and its vehicle damage. This may the only time you will ever see the big truck that changed your life. Be sure to also photograph any skid marks, debris, and property damage, as well as the damage to your vehicle.
Next, you should contact an experienced and aggressive Michigan truck accident attorney. Semi-truck cases are more complicated than standard car accidents and involve both state and federal regulations and laws. Trucking companies are extremely aggressive in fighting liability. They will send out experts to investigate the accident scene and gather witness statements quickly after the crash. They will also try to call you to get a statement. For these reasons, it is important to have an experienced law firm working on your side.
If you have been injured in a Michigan trucking accident, please contact us and allow our experienced trucking attorneys to help you secure the benefits and monetary compensation you are entitled to under the law.
What Compensation Can I Get From a Detroit Trucking Accident?
Individuals involved in trucking accidents are entitled to the same compensation as individuals involved in other types of automobile accidents. Michigan’s No-Fault Law allows compensation from two separate claims. The two claims are commonly referred to as first-party PIP claims and third-party negligence claims.
A Michigan no-fault PIP claim allows an accident victim to receive benefits regardless of the cause of the crash. These benefits include:
- The payment of medical expenses up to the amount of PIP coverage available under the policy;
- 3 years of lost wages from the date of the accident;
- Replacement services to cover household chores or childcare the victim can no longer complete for up to 3 years from the date of the accident;
- Attendant care, which is similar to in-home nursing;
- Medical mileage;
- Out-of-pocket medical costs; and
- Vehicle and/or home modifications
The Michigan no-fault law has changed and auto insurance companies no longer have to pay all medical expenses related to a crash. Under the old rules, there was no limitation on PIP coverage. Today, policyholders can purchase different limits of PIP coverage. Many trucking companies purchase PIP coverage for as low as $250,000. Once that amount is spent, the car insurance company – such as State Farm or Allstate – is responsible for paying these medical bills.
In these situations, any medical expenses from the Michigan truck accident that are still outstanding and medical care that will be required in the future can be recovered in the negligence case, as explained below.
Third-Party Negligence Claim
Negligence claims are available to victims of trucking accidents if the truck driver was at least 50% at fault for causing the accident. These claims are also known as third-party claims or Bodily Injury (BI) claims. Monetary compensation from a third-party negligence case includes the pain and suffering caused by the wreck.
Given the horrible injuries that can occur following a Michigan big truck accident, this type of compensation can be huge. The insurance company for the semi-truck must pay all non-economic damages resulting from the crash. This can include:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of quality of life
- Mental suffering
Besides pain and suffering and other non-economic damages, negligence cases can also include the medical expenses, lost wages, and other bills not covered in the first-party PIP claim.
It is important to find a knowledgeable attorney who can walk you through the differences between these two types of claims. It is also important to have an attorney who can help demonstrate the medical expenses and medical care that will be required in the future after a very serious truck accident.
A life care planner can explain to the insurance company – and a jury – the amount of care an injured person will need for the rest of their life, the cost of such care, and why such care is required. An economist can explain the amount of lost wages and loss of earning capacity a truck accident victim will incur for the rest of their life.
Because of the large insurance policies most motor carriers have, and the horrific injuries Michigan truck accident cases cause, truck accident cases can result in huge settlements and verdicts.
What Are the Causes of a Semi-Truck Accident in Detroit & Michigan?
Truck accidents in Michigan arise from many causes. Because of the complexity of a semi-truck and the impact forces involved, there are a variety of things that can go wrong.
Trucking companies and drivers are mandated by federal regulation to inspect, maintain, and repair all motor vehicles under their control. Trucking companies have a duty to ensure their drivers are not driving a longer number of hours than permitted under federal law.
The causes of truck wrecks in Michigan can include:
- Driver fatigue
- Maintenance issues
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway
- Defective tires and wheels
- Texting and driving
- Mechanical failure
The initial police report is just the starting point for investigating and evaluating how and why a truck accident occurred. It is important to aggressively demand documents from the commercial truck company, motor carrier, and other defendants.
Often, there is a history of bad actions by the truck driver or trucking company, such as driving too many hours, ignoring inspection regulations, or failing to conduct proper maintenance on the truck. Through this investigation, a jury can discover the truth and the injured client and his or her family can obtain the full measure of justice and compensation.
Who are Potential Defendants in a Michigan Truck Crash?
Truck accidents in Michigan, whether they involve a big rig, an 18-wheeler, a tractor-trailer or some other large commercial vehicle are complicated cases. Due to their complexity, they are not the same as a normal car accident case and insurance companies don’t treat them the same. Your Michigan truck accident lawyer should not as well.
Truck accidents involve more evidence, such as a review of the truck drivers logs, video surveillance, independent witnesses, electronic data stored on a “black box” and other important data and documents.
They also more potential responsible parties. Not only is the truck driver responsible for causing a big truck crash, but other entities can be responsible too. An aggressive and experienced Detroit truck law firm that has handled these complicated cases can help uncover potential defendants. This can make the difference in getting a small settlement or a large award because of the additional insurance coverage.
The following is a list of some of the potential defendants and responsible parties in a Michigan truck accident case.
The Truck Driver
Under the law, if a truck driver is at least 50% responsible for causing the crash, then he or she can be held responsible for the damages (injuries) they cause. Truck drivers must meet detailed guidelines and be qualified to drive. This includes having a valid commercial driver’s license after passing a road and written test, being physically able to drive a commercial motor vehicle, reading and speaking English sufficiently to converse with the general public and understand road signs, and other qualifications.
Commercial drivers must also have the knowledge and skill set to operate their truck. This can include operating under bad weather conditions, operating at night, knowing how to make basic repairs, properly inspecting their vehicle and other items.
Drivers must also follow strict hours-of-service (HOS) rules so prevent over driving and fatigued driving. Fatigued drivers are dangerous drivers. Federal law prohibits drivers from operating their trucks for too long at one time. Drivers must also properly and accurately keep track of their drive time and break time. Failure to do this can lead to citations and violations that will be on their record.
Typical examples of truck driver negligence include:
- Speeding during traffic
- Texting and driving
- Improperly passing another vehicle
- Blowing a red light or stop sign
- Failing to brake in time given the traffic conditions
- Driving too fast for the weather conditions
- Drinking and driving
The Owner of the Commercial Truck
Michigan has an Owners’ Liability statute, specifically MCL 257.401. Under this law, the owner of a motor vehicle, whether it’s a semi-truck or a commercial van, is liable for the injuries the driver of their vehicle causes so long as the driver had permission to use the vehicle. This is a strict liability statute. This means if the defendant driver was at-fault for causing the crash, then the owner is on the hook too.
It is important to discover all the owners of a commercial vehicle. Often, the owner of a truck will be a large interstate motor carrier. But sometimes smaller companies and truck owners will hide and try to play games with the true ownership of a motor carrier. This is especially the case with individual owner-operators. But just because a vehicle is owned by a limited liability company (LLC) or even an individual person does not allow them to escape liability when a driver causes severe injuries.
The Employer of the Truck Driver
Michigan law also allows the injured person to sue the employer of the driver. Under a principle known as respondeat superior, the principal (employer) is responsible for the bad acts of its agent (employee). So if a driver is speeding on a freeway like I-94 or I-75, and rear-ends the car in front of him because he could not slow down in time, and the driver was within the scope of his employment at the time of the crash, the employer can also he held liable.
The Motor Carrier
Motor carriers are often the same entity as the employer. Motor carriers are defined as “for-hire motor carrier or a private motor carrier. The term includes a motor carrier’s agents, officers and representatives as well as employees responsible for hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers and employees concerned with the installation, inspection, and maintenance of motor vehicle equipment and/or accessories.” 49 C.F.R. 390.5.
Carriers have a responsibility under federal regulation to conduct a thorough background check of every driver they hire. 49 C.F.R. 391.23. Carriers must make a good faith effort in obtaining a driver’s past driving record. If they fail to do this, and hire a driver with a history of multiple crashes or safety violations, the motor carrier can be sued for negligent hiring.
Carriers also have a duty to supervise their drivers. This includes pre-employment testing and random testing for drugs and alcohol (49 C.F.R. 382.301), maintaining thorough personnel files, and tracking a driver’s performance (such as tickets, accidents, etc.). Carriers who fail to do this can be used for negligent entrustment or negligent retention.
Brokers help arrange for the movement of freight all over the state and country. A cargo broker or freight broker is an entity that does not transport a load but helps arrange for the transportation of cargo between the shipper and motor carrier. They basically are the middlemen.
Brokers earn a commission for arranging the shipment of freight. This is usually the difference between what the owner of the goods being transported pays and what the motor carrier receives in payment. Sadly, this can sometimes lead to a race to the bottom with the broker trying to find the lowest cost carrier or driver so he or she can pocket the most money. When this happens, and the broker hires an unsafe driver or motor carrier, then they can be held liable for the injuries caused by the crash.
For example, brokers must properly investigate the motor carriers they hire. If they fail to do, they be used under a theory of negligent hiring.
What is the Statute of Limitations For a Detroit & Michigan Trucking Accident Case?
The statute of limitations is the time limit a person has to file a lawsuit against a defendant in court for civil compensation. If you wait too long and do not file a lawsuit in court against the defendant, then you forever lose your right to obtain compensation against that defendant.
In a standard negligence action against a motor carrier or trucking company in Michigan, the statute of limitations is 3 years. This means you have 3 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in court seeking pain and suffering damages an excess economic loss against the truck driver and other appropriate defendants. Again, if you do not file a lawsuit within that time, you cannot pursue a case for compensation against that defendant.
The statute of limitations on a first-party PIP case is different. Under Michigan law, an individual seeking PIP benefits, also known as no-fault benefits, has one year from the date a benefit is incurred to file a lawsuit. If the benefit, such as lost wages or a medical bill, is incurred and more than one-year passes, you can lose your ability to recoup that benefit. However, the law in Michigan has changed and it is now possible to obtain benefits that are older than one year in some situations.
Filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations is critical for trucking accident victims.
Who Do I Sue in a Michigan Truck Accident Case?
Given the complexity of a big truck accident case, it is important that aggressive investigation occurs well before a lawsuit is filed. This includes finding out who the correct defendants were that contributed to and caused the crash to occur in the first place.
Trucking companies are not like most other businesses. The ownership of the truck is not always clear. Trucks can be owned by an individual, a company, or a group of companies. That same truck then may be leased to an entirely different individual or company. Finding out who exactly owns and controls the truck is vital and must be included in the lawsuit to ensure a good outcome.
Potential defendants in a truck accident case can include:
- The negligent truck driver
- The employer of the driver
- The owner of the truck
- The leasing company, because many trucks are leased out, and the leasing company is responsible for making sure the truck and trailer are safe
- The broker, because the truck company may use a cargo broker to find a trucking company to move a load and the broker is responsible for screening the trucks and ensuring their safety
Typically, the negligent driver of the truck that caused the accident will need to be included in any lawsuit seeking pain and suffering compensation. The lawsuit will outline the at-fault driver’s acts and omissions that caused or contributed to the accident. This can include statutory violations, such as drinking and driving or speeding. Or it can include regulatory issues, like hours-of-service violations.
Additionally, when most semi-truck accidents occur, the truck driver was operating under the terms of employment. In this frequent scenario, the employer of the negligent truck driver can and should also be included in the lawsuit.
Under Michigan law, the employer may be liable under several different legal theories, including respondeat superior and negligent hiring. Under this principle, the employer is held responsible for the negligent acts the employees or any agent for the employer commits while in the course and scope of employment.
Sometimes, the owner of the truck is completely different than the driver and even the driver’s employer. Under the Michigan Owner’s Liability law, the owner of the truck is also responsible for the negligent driver and the injuries he or she caused. This is true even if the owner was not in the truck.
What are Typical Truck Accident Injuries in Detroit & Michigan?
Due to their large size and the velocity with which they travel, semi-trucks can cause catastrophic personal injury. Many semi-trucks weigh more than 40,000 pounds fully loaded. The force of impact on even a normal-sized SUV is no match.
As a result, the types of injuries caused by a big tractor-trailer can include:
- Broken bones and ligaments
- Traumatic brain injury, also known as closed head injury
- Whiplash, including low back and neck pain
- Herniated and bulging discs in the back and neck
- Injuries to the joints, including shoulder (torn rotator cuff) or knee (torn meniscus, ACL)
- Fractured hip or pelvis
- Scarring and disfigurement
The severity and duration of these injuries can vary. Some resolve within a short time frame. Others can be permanent and lifelong. The truck accident lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. are experts in explaining to the insurance company, the judge, and the jury how injuries impact the injured person and their family.
What Happens if a Truck Accident Results in Wrongful Death in Michigan?
Tragically, truck accidents in Michigan routinely end up in the death of an innocent driver or pedestrian. When this happens, the family members of the deceased can move forward with a lawsuit to obtain compensation, including pain and suffering as well as lost earnings.
To do this, an estate must be set up in probate court. A personal representative for the estate is selected and letters of authority are issued by the judge to allow the personal representative to continue with a case for civil compensation. The estate and its beneficiaries can sue for pain and suffering preceding the death, loss of companionship, loss of society, and other damages under the Michigan Wrongful Death Act.
Wrongful death cases are treated similarly to other car accident lawsuits in that documents are exchanged between the parties, depositions are taken, and expert reports are issued during a period of discovery. Most wrongful death cases are settled before a jury trial is needed. However, if the defendants in the case are disputing liability and the amount of money they are willing to pay, a jury trial may be necessary.
What Our Firm Can Do For You in a Detroit & Michigan Trucking Accident Case
The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. have represented truck accident injury victims all across the state of Michigan for more than 40 years. Our track record of success includes million-dollar settlements in jurisdictions throughout the state.
We work with experts both in Michigan and around the country to prove liability and to show the damages the negligent defendant has caused. This can include the use of accident reconstruction experts, trucking experts, economists, and medical experts.
Our team approach allows us to ensure that no stone is left unturned in our pursuit to win our client’s case. We walk in the shoes of our clients and treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve.
Contact Us Today
At the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, we treat our clients like family. We respond as soon as possible to telephone calls, emails, and texts. We are always available to talk and discuss your case and situation. It is our duty to keep our clients informed. We will work aggressively to win your case and to make the insurance company pay. For a free consultation about your truck accident case, please contact us now.